Oliva Tweest, a musical play produced by The Marimba Project, made history on Monday 15 April by becoming the first Afrobeats musical to be staged in the West End.
Comedian Eddie Kadi hosted the night at the Lyric Theatre and introduced the play with a short comedy set; and the audience were warmed up with a performance by the dancers who won Fuse ODG’s competition to star in the video of his latest single Antenna.
The chorus then came on and the play began; with the story following main character Tobi, a young Nigerian man who lived with his mother and brother and had a thing for playing around with the ladies. Whilst having relationship troubles with his ‘main chick’ Keisha, Tobi plays around with a number of girls and struggles to get serious with any of them.
Until he meets a good girl by the name of Testimony.
Testimony constantly fights off Tobi’s advances as she doesn’t want to get involved with a bad boy; and Tobi tries to tell himself that he doesn’t really like her that much.
Oliva Tweest carries on in that way as the two continue to clash despite their lives intertwining more and more. The play also followed each of their family lives, church lives and friendships; making it a play that any African living in the UK can relate to.
With Tobi’s mother Funke using a number of Nigerian phrases, humour was created as members of the audience were probably reminded of their own mother’s behaviour.
The tone for each scene was set by a number of different Afrobeats songs, including Oliver Twist by D’Banj (the song the play was based on), Kolom by Buk Bak and Oleku by Ice Prince and Brymo. Some of the songs where altered to suit the situation of each scene and a collective of African dancers helped add to the mood of the story.
The play was interactive and shyness was not encouraged as a church scene invited audience members to respond to the pastor’s preaching with shouts of “amen!” and sing along to gospel songs. A performance by Mista Silva was also injected into the play, providing a performance for the audience to get up and dance to, allowing viewers to get fully get involved in the experience.
Whilst Oliva Tweest was full of fun, culture and participation, it did feel like some parts of the story were incomplete and there were slight delays between scene changes.
However, those were the only criticisms at the night was full of entertainment and laughter as a whole.
As it was most of the casts’ first time on a big West End stage, it was a big accomplishment for The Marimba Project and hopefully this won’t be the last time we see Oliva Tweest on a such a big platform. Hopefully it’ll pave the way for many more similar projects with the same success in the future.
Check out our gallery of the night below: